Periodontal or gum disease is a very common infectious disease. In North America, periodontal disease affects about 75% of adults over the age of 35. Despite the high number of infections, 80% of adults believe that they do not have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can be painless until well into the advanced stages and is the primary cause of tooth loss in North American adults.
Researchers have found that women with periodontal disease were 7x more likely to have premature low-birth weight babies than women who were not affected by the disease. Also, people with periodontal disease are 2x as likely to die of a heart attack and almost 3x as likely to suffer a stroke. Bacteria in the mouth enter the bloodstream and lead to clogged arteries, blood clots and changes in heart function. Key factors contributing to gum disease are smoking, inadequate brushing, flossing and tartar buildup.
Proper diagnosis is very important in treating gum disease. Treatment for gingivitis is very different from treatment required for advanced periodontal disease that includes bone loss. Early signs of gum disease include red and/or puffy gums, and gums that bleed very easily. Early gum disease can be easily treated by professional cleaning and maintenance therapy. Advanced gum disease may require deep scaling and root planning to clean tartar buildup on root surfaces. In more advanced cases referral to a specialist may be necessary for surgical treatment.
Gum disease can normally be controlled. Teeth should be properly brushed at least twice daily (preferably after every meal) and flossed at least once per day. However, even with good home care, tartar deposits tend to develop on teeth and need to be cleaned professionally in order to help control gum disease. Regular check-ups and cleaning are important in maintaining oral health.